Most people look at food trimmings and don’t think twice about it. But, Chef Yousef Al Khammash from Mohammed Jalal Catering in Bahrain, saw an opportunity to create a more sustainable (and tasty) kitchen by utilizing trimmings in a creative way.
Often catering companies need to pre-produce a large amount of food to meet the needs of their clients. It can be tricky to estimate exactly how much food is required. We had the opportunity to sit down with Chef Yousef Al Khammash from Mohammed Jalal Catering, who used Winnow to gain better control over his operations. Here he shares his thoughts on his experience and his food waste reduction journey.
Please introduce yourself and tell us more about
your role at Mohammed Jalal Catering
My name is Yousef Al Khammash, I am the Executive Chef at Mohammed Jalal Catering. I oversee the work of my staff, prepare the menu and costing, preparing schedules and make sure that quality is maintained.
What do you find most exciting about cooking and food?
Working in the kitchen is quite dynamic, I like working with different types of ingredients and different types of dishes. Learning about different cooking techniques is exciting for me as well. I love managing and coordinating all the different elements in the kitchen.
Give us an example of something you did to reduce food waste.
We identify which suppliers offer the best quality produce by looking at the Winnow data, we can see what percentage of the produce is getting wasted through studying trimmings. We can also ask suppliers for the exact quantity of products needed by studying the data. After receiving the produce, we sort out the ingredients we get before inserting it into the refrigerator, this helps us minimize spoilage. Our staff checks the quality of the ingredients before accepting it. If there are signs of spoilage we ask for a replacement. For example, if we received white cabbage that we aren’t happy with we may ask them to replace it with some red cabbage or carrots instead. What’s important to us is giving our customers the best quality food with fresh ingredients.
What are the different ways you make use of food trimmings in your kitchen?
Vegetable and meat trimmings are great for making stock. At Mohammed Jalal Catering, we make use of our trimmings by turning it into stock. Carrot peels, celery core, lettuce, leek, mushroom stem, potato peel all work really well for creating stock. What is important is to try new things and experiment. Store the trimmings, use it to make the stock. This stock can then be used for a variety of purposes like making soups, sauces, stew. We also use it while cooking noodles to add to the flavor. It’s great for creating Demi-glace sauce as well. Celery leaves that would usually get thrown away, are full of flavor and a great addition to meatloaf, soups, and stews as well.
Since aluminum foil isn’t environmentally friendly, we decided to replace it with carrot, lettuce and cabbage peels while cooking in the oven. We wrap the meat we cook in carrot peels and put it in the oven or just put the meat on top of the peels before popping it into the oven. This adds extra flavor to the meat while being much more eco-friendly and sustainable.
Tell us about something new you discovered on this journey
I realized that the skin of a potato contains many vitamins and minerals, plus fiber and iron. Leaving the peels on the potato also adds some texture and flavor to the dish. Our chefs clean the potato very well and cut it with the skin to cook potato fries and wedges. I find that it really adds to the dish.
How does your chopping style impact food trimmings?
After we got the data through the Winnow reports and realized that we had a lot of food waste trimmings, we changed our chopping style so that we cut away less of the actual produce: Staff training is a major part of making sure you are running your kitchen in the most sustainable and efficient way possible. At Mohammed Jalal Catering we make sure the staff do not chop off more than required. The Winnow system helps me get better control of my kitchen. I can see what’s being thrown into the bin and I can make sure everything goes on as planned.
How did you get staff engaged in this project?
Staff engagement was an integral part of our food waste journey. My employees have to be aware of what they are throwing into the bin. Creating consciousness around wasting food has helped my team. I started by training staff about the proper way to core out tomatoes, strawberries, other products and how to cut meat the right way. Then, I review how they do it from time to time.
Why is utilizing food trimmings important to you?
Food waste trimmings contribute to the global food waste epidemic, but it doesn’t have to. Some of the items we throw out can be re-purposed. Nature has given us so much, it’s up to us to manage it and to take good care of the earth. These items may have low financial value but re-purposing them means that you are taking steps towards food waste prevention. Moreover, utilizing trimmings helps me be more creative in the kitchen and manage my inventory and labor better. So, in the long run, it does help cut costs as well.
By how much have you been able to reduce food waste trimmings?
At Mohammed Jalal Catering we have been able to reduce our food waste trimmings by 50%. This is a tremendous achievement for us because it means that we have been able to get better control of our operations as well as be more sustainable.
What drove you to use Winnow on your site?
A lot of F&B operatives believe that food waste trimmings are a necessary part of doing business. Yes, trimmings are an inevitable by-product of any kitchen operation but we want to change this notion that the industry can’t do anything about this. Winnow helped us raise awareness about the trimmings issue in our kitchen. Our staff is more engaged and committed to reducing food waste trimmings and being more sustainable.
The whole experience with Winnow has been eye-opening. It helped us realize that we can reduce waste by changing a few simple things in our operations. The reports have been very important in pointing us in the right direction. Managing trimmings is key to our success in reducing food waste.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about the Winnow system?
It is very simple and easy to use, we get excellent support from the team and they were with us every step of the way. The Winnow system gives me the daily and weekly cost of waste and it helps me control my kitchen’s costs and make savings.
Do you have a favorite dish?
Yes, it’s chicken biryani. The mixture of the rice with the spices is simply delicious. There are so many different ways of cooking biryani which is exciting for me as a chef.
What tips would you give to chefs wanting to reduce food waste in their kitchens?
I would say, keep searching for innovative solutions. Winnow has been very helpful for our site, their simple and ingenious device helps our kitchen. When I realized how much trimmings cost my kitchen I decided to get creative with it and see how I can reduce wastage. I’ve always found collaborating with other chefs and sharing information is a great way for all of us to grow and become better.